Winter storm wreaks havoc

ELKINS – Though local residents may feel Old Man Winter has worn out his welcome – with more than a dozen wrecks being reported on slick roads in the Elkins area Monday morning – the weather forecast predicts snow and freezing temperatures to continue into the weekend.

The National Weather Service in Charleston has issued a wind chill warning in effect until 1 p.m. today, as strong wind gusts, scattered flurries and blowing snow are all expected in the coming days.

Residents may see severe weather conditions, including wind gusts of up to 20 to 30 mph that could potentially cause minor structural damage, power fluctuations and outages.

Meterologist Liz Sommerville of the NWS said that today is slated to be “very cold, with a high of around 5 degrees,” while lows could dip into the negative temperatures today and Wednesday. On Thursday temperatures are expected to warm up to the 30s, but meterologists are still calling for snow as temperatures drop in the evening and into Friday morning.

“Right now it looks like more of the same,” Sommerville said. “The good news is that the weekend should bring a melt-off as temperatures improve into the 40s.”

While that may give residents something to look forward to for the weekend, in the meantime many are still struggling with challenging driving conditions.

Elkins City Clerk Sutton Stokes issued an emergency warning within the city limits Monday warning drivers to stay off of the roads.

“Road conditions in and around the City of Elkins are extremely dangerous and worsening steadily,” Stokes said in the release issued at about 10 a.m. “In the last hour, there have been about a dozen vehicle accidents in Elkins, some with serious injuries. Please advise the public to avoid non-emergency travel until conditions improve. Because of the volume of accidents, emergency responders must prioritize accidents with injuries and might not be able to respond to non-injury accidents.”

Elkins Fire Chief Tom Meader confirmed that his department had responded to nearly a dozen wrecks Monday, though no major injuries were reported. No further information was available at press time.

Several accidents were reported throughout the region, including two incidents on Shaver’s Mountain, one of which included a tractor-trailer that had jacknifed into the road.

West Virginia State Police in Parsons said that they had received calls all weekend regarding accidents and officials advised people on the road to “drive diligently.”

Sgt. P. B. Cork of the State Police advised drivers to drive with caution, allow for extra time and to clean off vehicles before taking them onto the roads.

Travis Ray, District 8 maintenance engineer for the state Department of Highways, said road conditions deteriorated due to the sudden drop in temperatures Monday.

“The temperatures in the area dropped more than 20 degrees, causing icy conditions on primary roads,” Ray said Monday. “Temperatures went from 40 degrees to 20 degrees, and wet roads froze. On top of that ice, roads are now snow-covered. Primary roads have been treated, as of 11 a.m., but a very slick.”

Ray also said that the priority of road crews is to treat main roads, including Corridor H, Routes 33, 92, 15, 32, 250 and 219, and the Beverly 5-Lane. Ray said that once crews handle those roads, they will move on to school bus routes.

“The roads are continuing to be plowed and treated,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process. Crews have been going on a 24-hour cycle. We ask that the public be patient. It’s a long winter. Drivers should take it slow and plan ahead to ensure that they make it to their destination safely.”

Bob Pingley, operations manager for the City of Elkins, said that city agencies are working on the streets to make them safer.

“We’ve been through this already a couple of times this year,” Pingley said. “I advise people to curtail unnecessary trips and be safe.”

Elkins Mayor Van Broughton said city employees were working around the clock in two 12-hour shifts everyday to plow and salt the streets.

“We have 77 miles of road that we take care of, including main roads, highways, side roads, alleys and parking lots,” Broughton said. “We are doing the best we can to stay on top of the weather but many of these areas need repeat treatment. I advise everyone to be cautious when traveling as temperatures drop and conditions worsen in the evenings.”

Broughton also thanked the city employees “for doing such a great job,” noting that many “have changed their schedules to help make the streets safer.” He also said he appreciated residents within the city trying to stay off the streets during bad weather.

All public schools are closed in the following counties today: Randolph, Barbour, Tucker, Upshur, Pocahontas, Lewis, Grant, Hardy and Pendleton.